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Man recovering after apparent shark attack in waters off Ka'u

December 12, 2013 - 8:34am

A Captain Cook man is recovering from wounds to his hand and leg following an apparent shark attack Wednesday morning in waters near Punaluu Beach Park in Ka‘u.

The 29-year-old was bodyboarding with two friends about 20 yards offshore around 8 a.m. when he was apparently bitten by a tiger shark, estimated to be 10 to 12 feet long, the Hawaii County Police Department said. The attack occurred in water about 8 to 12 feet deep in Ninole Bay, just south of the Hawaii County beach park.

A police spokeswoman told West Hawaii Today the man suffered non-life-threatening lacerations to his right hand and right leg in the reported attack.

The three had been surfing in the area for about an hour when the attack occurred, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The shark reportedly hit the man’s board and knocked him off.

The man was brought to shore and transported by his friends via private vehicle to Ka‘u Hospital where he was being treated for the wounds, according to the DLNR.

Hawaii County Fire Department lifeguards closed the beach shortly after the attack and posted shark warning signs at the park, according to the DLNR and fire department. An aerial observation of the shoreline conducted about 10 a.m. Wednesday found no sign of sharks in the area, said Gerald Kosaki, the fire department’s battalion chief for Special Operations.

Ka‘u Kakou, a community outreach group, was tasked with informing beachgoers of the closure, according to the DLNR.

The Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation said the park facilities on land remained open.

The Hawaii County Fire Department will perform an aerial observation of the shoreline at 10 a.m. today. If no sharks are sighted, the park will be reopened at noon, Kosaki said.

Attempts to reach the victim, who was discharged Wednesday from the hospital, were unsuccessful as of press time.

This is the third shark attack in West Hawaii waters — and fourth shark attack in Big Island waters — so far in 2013.

On Aug. 18, a 16-year-old Puna buy suffered bites to his legs while surfing near Pohoiki Boat Ramp in East Hawaii. Two months earlier, on June 18, a 28-year-old Kailua-Kona man suffered sharks bites on his leg during an apparent attack in waters off the Mahaiula area in North Kona. On Jan. 16, a man was surfing at Kiholo Bay in North Kona when a shark bit his hand.

In 2011, there were two reports of sharks biting boards, but not injuring the riders, near Lyman’s surf spot in Kailua-Kona.

Prior to that, an attack occurred in October 1999 when a 16-year-old boy had his arm bitten by a 6- to 8-foot shark while he was surfing shortly before sunset off Old Kona Airport Park, according to West Hawaii Today archives. An unconfirmed attack was also reported April 1987 in Kailua Bay and a confirmed attack occurred in 1963 off South Kona, according to the archives.

Statewide, this marks the 14th shark attack this year, according to the DLNR. Two of the attacks were fatal and occurred off Maui’s southwest coast. The most recent fatal attack occurred Dec. 2 when a shark attacked a kayak fisherman visiting from Washington state. Prior to that, in August, a German woman died a week after losing her arm in a shark attack.